Don’t Do It Yourself
Abbas R. Zaher | BDS, MS, PhD
Professor and Chairman, Department of Orthodontics, Alexandria University
President, The Egyptian Orthodontic Society
Lecturer, Department of Orthodontics, Alexandria University
It is absolutely exciting to be alive in the world of today. We are more inter-connected with each other more than ever. Information is available at your figure tips and anything you want to have is just a click away. Dentistry is seeing some very exciting times nowadays as well. Dentists can plan treatments digitally, custom make treatments digitally and surely share results again digitally.
Orthodontics had a nice share in this digital ride. The industry nowadays offer orthodontists the possibility to use digital technologies to offer better service to our clients starting from ditching the old alginate impression and stone models to intraoral scans to custom designing and milling orthodontic appliances that are specific for every single case.
However, as orthodontists were playing with the new gadgetry, some wise old owls started feeling some worrying trends. Nowadays, orthodontic manufacturers are reaching directly to the general public; something which we never witnessed before in the field. People now go to the orthodontic office demanding specific methods of treatment based on advertisement. It is now a daily task to get the clients to understand that their google search does not equal an dental diploma apart from an orthodontic specialty training that lasted for two or three years.
Another worrying trend is in the marketing of customized orthodontic appliances. Since the treatment is fully customizable, and the braces, wires, retainers and even a treatment guide sheet are sent to the orthodontist stamp sealed, then why can’t it be done by the general dentist since Big Brother is all monitoring the treatment progress and ready to intervene with things go awry? Major players in the market keep reassuring the profession that they only cater to orthodontists and they offer registration courses of their systems only to orthodontists except for a minor margin for the general dentist for simple cases. Since the boundaries between what is simple and what is not are sometimes blurry and orthodontists being territorial about can or cannot be done by the general practitioner, the time clad toggle war between orthodontists and dentists continues.
Bleak as this may sound, unfortunately when it rains, it pours. The entire dental community is facing a new fad prompted by the internet: The Do-it-yourself braces or DIY braces for short. The internet tells people how to do things themselves; so why don’t fix your teeth yourself. There are a series of online videos that shows the public how to close the gaps between their teeth using dental floss or rubber bands. To make matters worse, you can purchase a DIY braces kit online that comes complete with braces, wires, glue, gloves, an explorer and ironically an instruction manual. The American Association of Orthodontists was very disturbed by this new catching trend that they issued a public service announcement discouraging this direction. To quote, “The American Association of Orthodontists is urging consumers to beware of Internet videos and websites which encourage people to try and straighten their own teeth. Moving teeth is a medical procedure and needs personal supervision by an orthodontist. Please be wary of any suggestions to move teeth with rubber bands, dental floss, or other objects ordered on the Internet. Moving teeth without a thorough examination of the overall health of the teeth and gums could result in the permanent loss of teeth, which may result in expensive and lifelong dental problems. Orthodontists receive two to three years of specialized education beyond dental school and are specialists in straightening teeth and aligning the bite.” You can find the PSA at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwFY9x22knc.
Some good may come out of this after all. It may prompt all dental health care professionals to take a unified stand against these destructive trends. Everyone deserve the best smile modern medicine can give them. However attempting to treat yourself is tampering with your health which is a very slippery slope. If you don’t have the smile of your dreams right now, remember that best things come to those who wait. Meanwhile keep smiling. This is something you can do yourself.